Monday, June 11, 2012

How To Peel a Crawfish

This is where Cabbage feels right at home...  A big, steaming pile of crawfish, boiled with new potatoes and corn, spiced with Old Bay and just waiting for his attack.  I've never seen anyone peel crawfish as quickly as he can.  It may be partly due to the years he spent going to college in Louisiana, but I think it's more that he has a natural-born talent.  Crawfish peeling is his calling.

Me?  Notsomuch.  I like crawfish, but I don't love them.  Sure, they're tender, buttery, and taste like lobster or good crab.  I like the tactile experience of peeling them, and I enjoy eating them at newspaper-covered tables with a cold beer and lots of friends.  When I say I like them, I do.  Like.  But Cabbage?  He's another story.  He L.O.V.E.S. them.  Can't get enough of the little mudbuds.  So when our local grocery store had a nice fresh batch in, I told him I was up for it.  

Turns out I was, but Bean (my belly passenger) wasn't.  I occasionally have shellfish aversions when pregnant, and this was one of those days.  So I opted out of shellfish and into some leftover spaghetti. 

After watching Cabbage go all Tasmanian devil on the little crustaceans (a sight which is not for the faint of heart), it dawned on me that he should pass on his knowledge.

Enlighten the world.

And distract me from the gestationally-induced squeamishness leading me to question if I could stay in the same room with the crawfish one. more. minute.

My semi-pro shellfish sheller husband put it in slow-mo to give the rest of us (me) a tutorial on peeling crawfish.

Allow me to introduce our model.  He's just been cooked to a reddish orange and he's ready to be eaten.  See how he's whole, and the tail curled is under?  That's good.  Don't eat crawfish that come out of the pot in pieces, and don't eat ones with straight tails as they may not be fresh. 

Pick up your crawfish (you can do it), and grasp the body in your left hand, tail in your right.  The tail meat is your primary target.

With a pulling and slight twisting motion, pull the tail off the body.

You have about three options with the body in your left hand:
1. Suck the juices and orange fat out.  Foodies love this- it's where the intense flavor is.
2. Crack the claws open like you would a crab and eat the yummy meat there.  These were too small to bother with, but with larger crawfish it's definitely time well spent.
3. Throw it away.

To peel the tail, grasp the end between your right thumb and forefinger, and using your left hand lift the orange tail shell back one section at a time, just like you're peeling an orange.

After a section or two, gently pull the meat out with your left hand while the right still holds on at the base of the shell.  The trick is to kind of anchor the shell with the tip of your thumb, while the left hand pulls.  Sometimes you'll just get part of the tail out, but with a little practice the whole tail should come free in one nice piece.

Eat that luscious little piece of sweet meat!  Dunk it in butter, drizzle it with lemon, or just enjoy it as-is.  Delicious. 

Soon you'll be a semi-pro like Cabbage, and you'll have a pile of discarded shells in a huge glass mixing bowl next to your plate.  This what he ate by himself at warp speed.  See the beer can peeking out from the back?  That'll give you a sense of scale.

...And then he went back for seconds and thirds.  I wish I was kidding, but I'm not.  He's a freak of nature. 

I hope you try out your brushed-up technique soon.  Enjoy!

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